Iran calls the Baghdad regional meeting Saturday a good first step
Both Iran and Syria said Sunday US forces must withdraw from from Iraq because they are fueling the violence.
The conference decided on a follow-up at foreign ministers’ level next month in Istanbul.
Over the weekend, debkafile‘s military sources reveal American air contingents from the United States and Europe continued to land at US Persian Gulf air bases. Iran responded by placing its air defense units on a war footing and deploying Revolutionary Guards special forces units around its nuclear installations.
Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki’s appeal was addressed primarily to the latter two. Outgoing US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad again charged Syrian of allowing foreign jihadists and Sunni insurgents to cross into Iraq and weapons shipments from Iran reach Shiite militias.
debkafile adds: Quite apart from the upbeat symbolism, not much substance was expected from the encounter of more than 100 diplomats, many of them adversaries, beyond a follow-up at foreign ministers’ level. David Satterfield, senior state department adviser on Iraq and ambassador Khalilzad led the US delegation. They faced Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Aragchi.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported last week that the Americans would be coming to Baghdad with three goals scored against Iran in their covert war which continues unabated:
1. The defection of Iranian General Ali Reza Asgari, whose debriefing by US intelligence is underway. It is revealed here that the general flew out of Istanbul on Feb. 7 shortly after arriving from Damascus. He landed in Turkey under one identity and left with another. Involved in his secret flight were the CIA, Turkish military intelligence, the Israeli Mossad and one European intelligence service.
For a promise of immunity and asylum for life for him and his family, the Iranian general, a former deputy defense minister, agreed to spill everything he knew about Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps, the internal situation in the Islamic leadership, the clandestine Iranian networks in Iraq, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, as well as Tehran-Damascus ties, Hizballah, the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami and how far they are controlled from Tehran.
The Americans procured enough material – not just for an edge at the Baghdad meeting, but for an awareness of the weak links in Iran’s armor and Tehran’s probable modes of retaliation for Washington’s coup.
2. With Saudi help, the United States has finally played off Iran against Syria, breaking up the Tehran-Damascus alliance in Lebanon and removing Hizballah from Syrian control.
3. Wednesday, March 7, the Pentagon announced the deployment of an extra 2,100 military police to Baghdad on top of the 24,000 consigned to the Iraqi capital earlier. The US defense department did not release for publication word of the US squadrons airlifted during the week from the States and Europe to US Air Force bases at Udeid, Qatar, and Naama, Bahrain.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that Iran responded to these American military movements by three steps.
Tuesday, March 6, Tehran announced a nationwide air defense drill. This was camouflage for the mobilization of the air defense brigades’ reserve units and their deployment around Tehran and other main towns and national strategic installations, including nuclear and oil facilities. This step placed all of Iran’s air defenses on full war footing.
The Revolutionary Guards additionally encircled all nuclear facilities with the commando units they had formed as protection against possible raids by American or Israeli special forces.
Finally, Tehran stepped up the volume of arms sent to pro-Iranian forces in Iraq.
Iran has by and large responded passively thus far to the whipping inflicted by Washington. However, no one responsible there or in Jerusalem expects the Iranians to turn the other cheek for long.